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Got Game? Watch Your Grades!

With mid-term exams finishing up this week, many students can be found cramming for their respective classes. And like all high-pressure weeks, students’ biggest battle is the one against procrastination.

Students David Gilmour and Tom McGann take time out from their studies to play video games.

One of the most tempting and common of distractions is video games. Although the list of titles themselves goes on, one particular game is blamed more than most for keeping students from their studies. To the delight and misfortune of student gamers and their grades, the blockbuster Xbox 360 game Halo 3 was released just a couple of weeks ago, driving its way not only up the sales charts but through many students’ study time.

Here at Berea, one professor in particular has a unique insight into the subject of studying and its overall effect on grades. Dr. Ralph Stinebrickner, a mathematics professor here at Berea since 1974, has recently headed up a study about this very subject, and his research was done right here on BC’s campus. Starting in 2001, Stinebrickner teamed up with his son, Todd, an associate professor of economics at the University of Western Ontario. Together they led a survey-based study at Berea, asking freshmen many different questions, all relating to their individual study habits as a whole. “How studying affects grade performance. That’s really the nature of the study, video games just became a part of it,” Stinebrickner stated.

The father-son duo’s project has picked up significant press recently, especially concerning the interplay of video games and schoolwork. The question that they wished to address with their research was the following: “Does studying affect grade performance?” The answer may seem quite obvious. However, Stinebrickner observed that “some students study more because they’re doing very poorly. They may study more but it doesn’t necessarily mean that their grade point average will go up.” In 2001, the Stinebrickners asked Berea freshmen whose roommates brought a video game console to school how much time they themselves spent playing and in comparison, studying. The results were something seemingly obvious, yet interesting: These students studied forty minutes less on average each day, and their grades were also around 0.241 points lower, based on the 4-point GPA scale. However, in all other characteristics such as ACT scores, high school GPA, and time spent sleeping, these students were very similar to Berea College students whose roommates did not bring a video game console to school. From this data, the Stinebrickners were able to conclude that studying does indeed have a positive effect on grade performance.

But Berea students have an advantage. As always, the Learning Center is open all five days of the school week and anyone can come in and receive help on anything from essays to everyday homework. More relevant, however, are the many services it can provide to students who are unsure about how to study for their exams. They even have a large rolodex of study tip sheets available in their lobby. What’s even better, however, is talking to someone face to face. Rose Cale, a sophomore English Literature major working at the Learning Center, suggests simple, yet effective tips that aren’t necessarily school related. “The best study tool is to get enough sleep and to eat well.” As far as actual studying goes, Cale recommends aids such as flash cards or study tips and guides to go along with the quintessential stack of notes. “Just try to keep your mind clear,” she said.

However, grade drop or not, students continue to play their video games. Even so, they’re more aware of what needs to be done than one might expect. Junior physics major, David Gilmour has a good handle on balancing his time, even if Halo occasionally gets the best of him. “I’m definitely good at not letting video games interfere with my studies,” he said. “Only that flighty temptress Halo 3 can lure me from my work.” Likewise, Gilmour’s roommate, Tom McGann states the importance of video games as related to his own lifestyle and work habits. “Video games soothe my soul. A bit of quality relaxation helps me center myself,” he stated. Stinebrickner also agrees that stress relief and relaxation are important facets to a student’s college experience. “It’s clearly important in scheduling to take time to relax and find happiness in other activities,” he said. “For some people, that’s video games.”

The important word to remember for studying is “balance.” Students should attempt to mix leisure with their studying for the best results. With Dr. Stinebrickner, as well as many other great professors and the Learning Center at their disposal though, Berea students should have no problem achieving that goal.

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